Yesterday, the 4th grade took their annual field trip to George Washington Carver National Park. It was my third time taking the trip, and I still love going. It's a new experience each time, because I'm with a new set of kiddos. They always offer a new perspective about the place.
It was the perfect day for it. The weather was cool, the sun was shining, and the leaves were all kinds of beautiful fall colors. The only thing I didn't care for was the abundance of caterpillars that seemed to be EVERYWHERE. Now, I don't normally mind caterpillars. In fact, I have a couple that have cocooned in a net in my classroom. But, yesterday, they just seemed to be blowing in the wind and landing on everything and everyone. Even though caterpillars are one type of bug that don't normally bother me, I always worry about touching them because I never know which kinds are poisonous.
We started our day out in the Discovery Center. It's basically a mini kid museum. It has a bunch of stuff that George Washington Carver explored and created, and the Discovery Center allows the kids to touch, look at, and play with all the artifacts. They even have a room made up as a school house that always fascinates the kids. It gives them some insight to what school was like back in those days, and they are always amazed at the lack of supplies, space, and technology. After the kids got their fill of exploring, we moved in to the lab to make some peanut milk.
Making the peanut milk is a big hit with the kids. It amazes them when they are able to make milk from a peanut. They crack open a peanut, crush it down to a fine powder, mix it with some water, and then shake it up until the water turns white. They then strain out the pieces of peanut, and wha-la.. they get peanut milk. During that time, the kids also learn about how George helped out people that were having trouble with their crops, and how he was able to come up with some 300 uses for peanuts and soybeans. It's a fascinating lesson.
After the milk making, it was lunch time. We all met outside so that we could have a picnic-style lunch. The kids sprawled out on the tables and grass, while the teachers sat and discussed their morning. Being that there are so many of us that go, we have to break up in to four groups, so we don't actually see each other until lunch time. It was a bit cold, and extremely windy, but everyone seemed to have a good time eating their lunch and spending a few minutes relaxing or playing before it was time to get back at it.
The afternoon was spent taking a mile hike around the park. The kids got to see a bust of George and listen to a commencement speech he gave, where George lived as a child, the forest he explored and found his love of nature, the pond where George would spend a lot of time reflecting on his love of nature, the farm house that his owners lived in, and the graveyard where George's owners are buried. I love the hike, and it's my favorite part of the whole trip. The walk is beautiful, and I never tire of hearing about the young slave boy who fell in love with his surroundings and was motivated to spending his life doing what he loved: Helping people. All the rain we've had helped the creek, and it was beautiful to see it running under the bridges we walked over.
The kids all did a fantastic job, and I'm very proud of their behavior. They asked great questions, they listened to our tour guide, and they were excited and focused on hearing about George's life.
It was definitely a great day, and when we got back to school we just "chilled" and watched a movie for the last 30 minutes of the day.
The Carver trip is always a great way to instill some motivation in to the kids. Especially those that come from a tough background, who might not have much, and feel like they are destined for a hard life. Hearing about a boy who was a slave, worked hard, and WANTED to go to school is a big deal. They get to hear about how he walked over eight miles to attend a school, and how he overcome the hardships of segregation and being turned away from the thought of college because he was black. They also learn that George didn't allow that to stop him, and his fame came from the fact that he worked so hard to educate himself and found a passion for doing what he did.
George's story is a great way for me to reiterate the fact that my kiddos are destined for the life that they make for themselves. If they live on excuses and opt for always trying to take the easy way out, then their lives might not turn out the way they want. However, if they focus on doing what they want, working hard, and overcoming any obstacles that life has thrown their way, they are destined for greatness.
It's perfect timing to go with what I'm already teaching my students. It helps show them that the lives they want doesn't come easy. It's something that requires some hard work, some setbacks, and overcoming the hurdles.
There was one part of yesterday that upset me a little, and shocked me quite a bit. And that was the fact that several of my kids were upset about having to walk a mile for the hike. When I told the kids what we were going to do, I saw some sheer terror cross the faces of some of my kiddos. The thought of walking that far absolutely terrified them, and they were worried about whether or not they'd make it. Now, of course, a mile sounds like a long way to them. They don't really understand the concept of distance, yet. But, it was the first time I had been met with such resistance. I had to settle the nerves of some of my students by reassuring them that there would be several places where we would sit along the hike, and that helped calm them a little.
After the hike was over, I fully expected those same kids to tell me that the walk wasn't as bad as they thought, but that didn't happen. A few of the kids said they enjoyed the walk, but they were glad they got to sit down. A few of them even said they were glad the hike was over and they could sit on the bus and rest because they were so tired.
That kind of mentality springing from 9 and 10 year olds scares me a little. I mean, when I was their age, I spent a lot of time outside exploring, walking, running, and being active. I'm sure that hearing I was going to be walking a mile might have worried me a little, but actually doing it would have been a piece of cake. I'm fat and my knees are bad now, but I can still walk several miles with no problem. It truly scares me to think that some of these kids are already having problems with something like walking a mile.
I'm no saint when it comes to making my own children play outside. My kids would much rather sit in front of a video game than go outside and play, but seeing this type of behavior from my students made me realize that I have nothing to feel guilty about when I do force my kids to get away from their electronics and go play outside. It made me realize how important it is for my kids to be in sports and stay active. And I'm now jumping on the bandwagon about preaching the importance of moving, playing, and staying active.
I'm definitely no role model. I mean, I let my own body get way out of control. I have never been the "sporty" type, and I am not the person that stays active or works out often. Yet, seeing some of my kids with genuine fear over taking a walk did reiterate the fact that it's not too late for me to start setting an example. I definitely don't want my own kids to walk down the same path I traveled. I don't want them to be in their 30s, and obese. And, I definitely don't want them to be kids that can't do some physical activity. It also reinforced the importance of supporting my kids in their sport endeavors, and make sure they enjoy the physical activity they do get.
I'm seriously considering trying to motivate some of my students to start walking with me during recess.
Next week, we start working on the systems of the body in science. I think that'll be a great way to connect some physical activity in to the learning.
It's something to think about...and something I'm going to explore further.
Right now, though, I need to get moving so I can get ready for work.
I'm having the last class for my first class as a Master's student, today. I still have a lot of work to get done before class starts, but I'll make sure I'm prepared.
Have an awesome day, everyone!!